Valentines blog, by Lisa Fathers & Patrick Ottley-O’Connor

Love is about social connection, kindness, empathy and as we celebrate Valentine’s Day we reflect on how we can facilitate those things at school level and across our Teaching School Hub areas but also how ‘self love’ is the most important love of all! 

Schools are challenging, busy places and day after day teachers and all staff are giving everything to the school they work in.  Every class or form is different – whether that’s personalities, different behaviour, varied learning needs, individual targets and differentiated schemes of work.

While school staff are putting so much care and empathy into their day job, a bit of ‘self-love’ is often the last thing on the agenda.  Working too hard and striving for perfection often has the opposite effect. Being hard on ourselves is often a result of trying to do everything right, all the time, and we are much more critical of ourselves, than we would be to our colleagues, family or friends.   If we can learn to hear our inner voice and replace it with a more compassionate one, then we will also learn how to become more resilient in the face of adversity. Putting our own oxygen mask on first, before we can look after and nurture others is so important. Being kind to yourself is ESSENTIAL, filling your own kindness bucket or cup first is critical. 

HOLIDAYS ARE SO IMPORTANT, YES work is important too but you need your holiday to be able to enjoy work! If your half term is this week or next week, have some fun, switch off from work, give your brain a break

It is love that gives someone a sense that they are valuable and with that comes self-esteem.    At Bright Futures Educational Trust we believe that children should receive the highest quality experiences and teaching to equip them for life and their next steps in education, training and employment. This belief is underpinned by our values of passion, community and integrity, two of which you could argue are strongly intertwined with the concept of love.  As school leaders we should aim for a supportive culture, placing staff wellbeing at the heart of decisions.  Fostering a whole-school approach to supporting kindness and compassion, where everyone feels welcome, socially connected, cares for one another and shows empathy, can help individuals achieve their potential and do amazing things.  It gives courage and confidence. 

At the Bright Futures SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) we not only ensure all our trainees complete MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) and we deliver this to lots of other ITT providers too because fundamentally we believe it is as crucial for our new teachers, as learning classroom management techniques. One trainee last year said the CPD was:  “Powerful and informative. Made me look at my own mental health issues, giving me strategies to not only help the young children in my care but myself too.” 

Essentially, leaders lead well, teachers teach best and learners learn best when all feel supported and wanted within their school.  

Valentines Day can shine a light on the relationships in our lives, often this can be a bit emotional but the most important relationship we have is with ourselves. Be your own valentine this year, treat yourself! Wear something you love, buy yourself flowers or write yourself a love letter as if you were writing to a friend saying all the things are great about you. You can re-read it when you are feeling low.

 School leaders, teachers & support staff alike should aim to become Wellbeing Supermodels of self-love.

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